Corner Picks: Predictions, odds, best bets for AC Milan vs. Inter Milan, Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid, more


I took a trip back in time during the winter break. While I enjoyed checking out some Africa Cup of Nations matches and World Cup qualifiers, my favorite matches during the break took place in The Championship (England’s second division).

I grew fond of the league when my beloved Aston Villa was stuck there for a few years because even though the quality of play isn’t nearly as good as other top leagues, there’s far more parity. Also, sloppy play can often be the most entertaining.

But the nostalgia for Aston Villa’s days isn’t the trip back in time I speak of. No, it’s the lack of VAR in the Championship. It’s outstanding. There were some missed calls in a few of the matches that, had it been a Premier League match, would have resulted in an official staring at a screen for five minutes before making a decision, and then led to the announcer talking about that decision for the rest of the match. Then, if there had been a post-game show, that show would’ve focused on the VAR call too.

None of that happened, though. Instead, the match went on, and everybody lived to tell the tale. It was so much more enjoyable as a viewing experience. I don’t tune into a soccer match, or any other sport, with the intent of debating judgment calls. I tune in for the game. I only hope that one day every other league opts to take the same trip back in time I did.

All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.

Inter Milan vs. AC Milan

Date: Saturday, Feb. 5 | Time: 12 p.m. | TV: CBS Sports Network | Live Stream: Paramount+

Featured Game | Inter Milan vs. AC Milan

Any time I handicap a soccer match, one of my starting points is checking each team’s home and away splits, but that’s meaningless here as both these teams play in the same stadium. Thankfully, I have the first Derby della Madonnina to look back on from November to help me reach a conclusion here, and it’s the same conclusion I reached for that match. Inter are going to win. Inter did not win the first match, as it ended in a 1-1 draw, but a closer look shows that it shouldn’t have.

Using expected goals (xG), Inter won the match 2.6-0.9. Inter’s lone goal came on a penalty by Hakan Calhanoglu, but a second penalty kick — this one by Lautaro Martinez — was saved. Milan’s lone goal came on an own goal as a shot was deflected off Stefan de Vrij past Samir Handanovic. While AC Milan had more shot on target during the match, none were from close range. Inter controlled the play for most of the match, as have most of the top teams in Serie A against AC Milan this season. I don’t expect things will look much different on Saturday. Pick: Inter (-125)

Fiorentina vs. Lazio

Date: Saturday, Feb. 5 | Time: 2:45 p.m. | Live Stream: Paramount+

Featured Game | Fiorentina vs. Lazio

There’s a lot more gut than math to this play than I typically use, but this strikes me as one of those times when going with the gut pays off. Fiorentina have been one of the more pleasant surprises in Serie A this season, as they’ve been challenging for the European spots all season. The problem is the Viola have tailed off in recent weeks before the break. They’ve managed only one win in their last five Serie A matches, and that was a 6-0 drubbing of a Genoa squad that appears destined for relegation.

And that was before selling Dusan Vlahovic to Juventus. Fiorentina have scored 41 goals in 22 Serie A matches, and Vlahovic scored 17 of them. That’s a lot of production to lose. While I like Fiorentina’s moves to help overcome the loss they knew was coming, I have a difficult time believing Fiorentina will be operating at peak efficiency this quickly. It’s a team that will need to learn how to play without their focal point, and they’ll have to learn against a Lazio team that’s struggled on the road this year but knows exactly what it is. Pick: Lazio (+195)

Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid

Date: Sunday, Feb. 6 | Time: 10:15 a.m. | Live Stream: ESPN+

It does not blow my mind that we’re in February, and neither Atlético Madrid nor Barcelona have any hope of catching Real Madrid. We’ve seen that happen before in La Liga. What’s mind-blowing is that it’s February and neither Atlético nor Barcelona seemingly have a realistic chance of catching Sevilla or Real Betis. That’s not nearly as common! But that’s where we stand, with Atlético in fourth place in Spain, just ahead of Barcelona in fifth. That means the stakes are high because these two will likely spend the rest of the season battling for the final Champions League spot in Spain, so picking up three points here could prove to be the difference.

I have no idea which team will get them if anybody manages to win at all. No, I’m taking the under because I expect both teams to take an extremely cautious approach with so much at stake. Atlético have not been as sound defensively on the road, but they’re facing a Barcelona team that hasn’t been nearly as potent in attack as we’re used to seeing, and now finds itself with a bunch of new faces — Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traore — looking to break in who aren’t used to playing together. There’s a strong chance this turns out to be a boring slog, so that’s what I’m betting on. Pick: Under 2.5 (-125)

Weekend Parlay

This week’s parlay pays +130. Let’s hope it simply adds to our profits this weekend rather than saving us.

  • Roma (-320)
  • Manchester City (-700)
  • Atalanta (-440)
  • Real Madrid (-400)

Last Week

1-3

-1.88

Overall

31-28

+3.64





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